Saturday, January 7, 2012

DC Universe Online

DC Universe Online (DCUO) is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) set in the DC Universe. Released by Sony Online Entertainment in January 2011, it was supposed to be the MMO that will rule the superhero MMO market.

That has not been the case as players had abandon the game and Sony had to convert the game to F2P (Free-to-Play) on November 1 to continue the game. In fact, it’s fair to say DCUO is now no. 3 in the superhero MMO Markey, behind Champions Online and City of Heroes. So…what went wrong?

I shall start off with what went right for the game.

DC fully supported the game with Geoff Johns being the principal writer of the story and Jim Lee being the game's Executive Creative Director. The story (which is about an alien invasion by the supervillain Brainiac) is interesting and the character designs are good.

DCUO is a good-looking game. The game itself is beautiful and you can clearly see that a lot of work had been put into the cities of Metropolis and Gotham City. I also got a kick out of fighting alongside the various heroes and villains of the DCU. I know some people complained that they are sidekicks to the main heroes like Superman or Batman but I don’t see why that’s a problem. I mean why are you are in a MMO called DC Universe Online if not to fight alongside Batman?

Leveling was also a breeze and I got a character to the max level of 30 in about 3 weeks (which was very quick for me). However when I went on to my secondary character, I found that the experience wasn’t that enjoyable. I have put some thought on why that is the case and think I have the answer.

The characters builds are just too similar. When players play the game, they have a choice of going into a damage mode or an alternate mode (healing/control/tank etc). On paper this sounds cool but in practice, it is far less so. This is because allowing everyone to go dps means you can have a team all doing the same thing! Basically, everyone goes damage and tried to knock down the boss before getting killed. It takes tactics out of the equation and many times, teams just pile on the boss.

More importantly, it means there isn’t much of a difference in the character builds! As everyone can go dps, outside the flashy animation, all the characters played the same. I believe it is why my alts couldn’t maintain my interest in the game. I just couldn’t see that much difference between my alt (which is an ice tank/dps) and my main (nature healer/dps)! It doesn’t help that there wasn’t that many powers to choose from in the first place.

When players first start the game, they have to create a character and the problem begins immediately. When the game was first launched, DCUO only have 6 power sets for players to choose from. Since the launch, two more power sets (Lighting, Light) have been introduced to make a grand total of…8!

That is just pathetic. Especially when you consider that City of Heroes give you close to 16 different powers to choose from at the start! Another problem is in the PS3 design of the game interface. DCUO is designed to be played both by the PC and PS3 and the console-focused interface of the game was very troublesome for me. I only had 8 slots for my powers and since 2 of them are taken by my potions, that means I only have 6 powers to choose from.

That is just sad and I believe is the main reason why DCUO went F2P within a year of launch. I have played all 3 superhero MMOs on the market and I have to rank DCUO behind Champions Online and City of Heroes. It’s not a bad game but the other 2 are just better.

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